What the local church has in abundance, is exactly what the world needs. The local church, rather than being some business or institution, is more simply defined as the local gathering of those who have asked Jesus Christ to rescue them from their sin. They recognize Him as their leader. They have experienced salvation that comes as gift. It is not earned by competition with others to be better. The theological word for this is “grace”. And when it is honestly studied and understood . . . It is truly amazing.
And so here are three things that grace does. These line up with what grace is meant to do in the church. They also happen to be some significant needs in our culture.
1. Grace Manufactures Humility
I word this first one intentionally, because I believe that it is the very WAY that the church is saved that creates and forges a genuine humility. Where we get grace wrong, we get humility wrong. Show me a local church that is weak on grace and I can almost guarantee that they will also be low on humility.
Where there is no grace, humans will naturally default to competition. There will be dissension. There will be back-biting. There will be gossip. And there obviously will be those who consider themselves to be the ‘insiders’.
We live in a world that is multiplying arrogance right now. Everyone is right and nobody is wrong. And competing opinions and competing narratives almost define our existence in the pandemic world.
The church, through grace, has humility on tap. Are we serving it up to the world? I am not suggesting a humility that is unwilling to fight for the truth. I am suggesting a humility that acknowledges the fact that our only hope rests OUTSIDE of us. The problem won’t be solved from our plans, our plots, or our strength. The problem will be solved by God’s gracious rescue.
2. Grace Points to the Giver
It is apparent that humanity goes through historical cycles of groping around in the darkness for anyone to blame, for anything to help, for any pills to mask the pain.
But grace acknowledges that this is the best we have to offer. Grace says, we couldn’t find the solution, and instead points our attention to the one who CAN fix it.
By its very nature, grace implies one who has given us rescue. When we think of grace we think of Christmas, the giving of a Son. We think of Good Friday, the self-sacrifice of the Son. And we think of Easter, the resurrection of the Son. From beginning to end, the work was His.
I am convinced that a healthy person is a person who has something greater than self to look to. We all long for it. Our hearts are designed for transcendence. This pandemic has brought so many of us to gaze no further than the end of our noses. We are stuck in a cultural cycle of self-interest, self-preservation, and self-service.
Grace reminds us that there is a Giver of gifts. There is a model, there is an example, there is a Savior. Our hearts need someone outside ourselves to worship.
3. Grace Leads to Hope
I couldn’t fix myself. In my brokenness, I will spin like a record skipping at the chorus every time. (To clarify, we used to call vinyl “records” – means the needle would often skip if it hit a scratch in the surface. I feel the need to explain this for those who are millennials and younger . . .)
The world is spinning and we keep skipping at the same points. Every four years our nation will go through the same political mess. We have our routines that amount to attempts at hope. Will we be satisfied when the vaccine is available for all? Is that when we can finally be done with Covid? Or will it all be good with a new president? Or on a personal level, will it be a new car? A new job? A new iPhone? We keep skipping like an old record.
Grace is like the gift of a brand new record. It changes the tune to hope. To joy.
The church, through grace, has hope on tap. And the world is devoid of hope. In grace we have what the world needs to move out of the well worn pathways of false-hopes. The world tries to ring hope out of dry rags. While the church has vats of it in stock.
This blog is primarily for my church friends then . . . Are you demonstrating humility in a world that needs to see that the church is not a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous prigs? Are you pointing to the One giver of grace? We are not the solution, but we needed someone outside of us to rescue us. Are you shining a spotlight on the right hope? The hope is found in a gift from God. The hope doesn’t come from politics, ‘Merica, medicine, masks, or merit.
Humility comes from grace, worship comes from grace, hope comes from grace. Do you see what your world needs? What are you doing to share the solution?